BenQ recently released the EW3280U, a premium 32-inch, 4K “entertainment monitor.” I’ve spent the past six weeks with an evaluation unit in our home, so I can shed some light on what that designation means, and why this computer monitor is so special.
Easy setup, but that does mean some limitations
Setting up the BenQ monitor was an easy job for one person (despite its size) and took just minutes. Basically, this involves sliding the monitor onto its stand and tightening two screws. If you’d rather wall-mount, a plastic panel covers a 100 x 100 VESA cutout.
Easy-peasy. However, that does mean some limitations compared to monitors with more flexible stands. There is no height adjustment (the bottom of the monitor stands about 10 cm from the desk top). There is no swivel. There is tilt, but it’s limited to about 20-degrees in total. There is a headphone jack around back, but no USB hub feature. It’s functional, but basic.
The USB-C port was powered and I was able to charge a smartphone from it. I’m not sure what advantage that offers, though. With the port located at the back of the monitor you’d have to leave a USB-C cable plugged in and hanging loose to make use of the charge capability.
The ports you need
Speaking of USB-C, this monitor has the video input ports you need: a pair of HDM 2.0 ports, DisplayPort, and the aforementioned USB-C (which I took advantage of to connect a Google Pixelbook Go at 4K). You can connect multiple sources simultaneously and rotate through them to choose the active source.
Initial impression: a work of modern design art
There’s no denying the fact that this monitor is a beauty.
BenQ chose a unique finish. It’s described as metallic brown, but can look bronze in some light. The front face is completely flat down to the chin, with no sign of a bezel. They remain hidden until the monitor is powered up and even then, the top and side bezels are thin. A volume dial is visible peeking out from beneath the bottom on the left. On the bottom right, within reach behind the screen, are a series of controls including a joystick for navigating the onscreen menus.
At the edges, the monitor measure about 2 cm thick, hitting a maximum of about 5 cm at the thickest point of the gently curved back panel.
Many computer monitors are utilitarian. Some strive to look edgy or futuristic. The BenQ EW3280U goes for striking—and it works.
4K, big screen experience
That initial impression only gets better when the monitor is powered up. It’s a big, bright and sharp display, with great (178-degree) viewing angles. Those viewing angles help to compensate for the minimal adjustability, by the way.
I have to confess that 90% of the use this monitor has seen during the past few weeks has been an almost criminal waste of what it’s capable of.
Like many people, my wife has been working from home lately. She’s been using a five year-old, 11.6-inch laptop with a 1366 x 768 display. There’s plenty of power still (I always order laptops with a Core i7 and max out the RAM for a longer useful life, and it has SSD storage), so it’s perfectly fine for web browsing. But it’s horrible for work, especially when most of her day is spent with massive Excel spreadsheets. However, one Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable later, and the laptop is outputting at 4K to the BenQ monitor. BenQ’s advanced EyeCare technology does a good job of reducing eye fatigue, even after full work days in front of the display.*
As mentioned, I also connected a Pixelbook Go at 4K, this time using USB-C. The results were eye-popping. This is a VESA DisplayHDR 400 certified monitor, with 95% DCI-P3 colour gamut and 1000:1 static contrast ratio.
*This is a good example of why you may not want to toss out that old laptop. If performance is fine but the low resolution display is the pain point, connecting to an external monitor can breath new life into it.
BenQ EW3280U entertainment monitor key specs:
In another premium touch, BenQ has equipped the EW3280U with its treVolo audio. There’s a DSP, two drivers and even a subwoofer onboard. This is that rare monitor that won’t leave you wishing for a soundbar or a pair of good computer speakers.
Entertainment is where it’s at
Everything I’ve talked about rolls up to the positioning of the EW3280U as an entertainment monitor.
Brilliant colour, 4K resolution, HDR (it actually features HDRi with a sensor that adjusts contrast and colours in real time based on ambient lighting), and treVolo audio combine for an eye-popping experience when you use the EW3280U for gaming or streaming movies. Even in bright lighting and daylight!
There are additional features that support these entertainment options including AMD Freesync support, 24 fps cinematic video, custom sound modes, and even a remote control.
Hardcore gamers will likely want something with a faster refresh rate, but for casual PC and console gaming it worked very well. Chasing off my kids and their gaming laptops when my wife was taking a break from work has actually become a thing …
Is the BenQ EW3280U your new entertainment monitor?
In the time the BenQ EW3280U has been in our house, I’ve grown very fond of it. I’ll be sorry to see it go, even if that does mean we finally get the dining room table back … The size and 4K resolution are great, of course, but lots of monitors offer that. It’s the extras that make this monitor so special: the brilliant colour, the gaming capabilities, the powerful treVolo audio, and the premium design.
If I was in a compact space and looking for a single display to cover off all my computing and entertainment needs—including replacing a TV—this would definitely be the one.